The Journal Gazette
Friday, August 07, 2020 1:00 am

Eco Fest explores sustainability

31-year-old brings concept hatched in Toledo to city

BLAKE SEBRING | For The Journal Gazette

After thinking about it for quite a while, Addie Farris finally got around to putting together two rain barrels last month. Despite what's been a very dry summer, they both filled up during a solid rain.

“There are certain things I've been doing for a long time, and I have a running mental list of things I want to implement,” says Farris, co-organizer of Sunday's Eco Fest at Headwaters Park West with her sister-in-law Megan Farris. “I would not be the poster child for doing everything perfect for sustainability. There are plenty of people who do more than me but the goal is to keep trying to find what I can do.”

That's kind of the unspoken theme of the event, to come with an open mind and explore the possibilities of a sustainable lifestyle. The event includes hourly workshops including rain barrels, composting and family yoga. There will be more than 30 vendors and food and various presentations.

This is the first time for the event in Fort Wayne, but the 31-year-old Farris organized a similar 2019 event in Toledo where she lived for three years. Farris and her husband, Jes, recently moved back to Fort Wayne, and she started organizing Eco Fest, which was originally scheduled for May but pushed back because of the pandemic.

The idea is to make sustainability accessible to anyone through a family-friendly event.

“If you are looking at how we are living in the world right now and the state of our world, there are so many things that are not sustainable such as our plastic use or our clean water situation,” Farris says. “There are more and more countries who are dealing with not having enough clean water and drinking water. There are a lot of things that fall under that umbrella. It just means we're living in a way that can not sustain itself in a long way.”

Some of the terms that fall under that umbrella include environmentalists, living green, recycling education, the vegan movement and wildlife conservation, Farris says. Eco Fest is an opportunity to bring all the groups together and possibly attract new participants.

“Some people might feel overwhelmed when they are thinking about what they can do to better the environment or they are thinking all of this is a little pretentious,” Farris says, “so we wanted to strip away all of that and bring together people from all walks of life and any levels of knowledge to really learn and absorb information. There are people who have been living a sustainable life for a long time and have been doing a lot more than their neighbor, but we still want their neighbor to show up and see that there are still a lot of little things they can do at home.”

Her interest really sparked three years ago with the birth of her son Huey, changing her perspective on everything, including the kind of Earth he was inheriting. When she looked at the world, Farris was a little discouraged and decided she wanted to make a difference. Becoming eco-friendly, she decided, was her best option.

The Toledo event was a success with 40 retail and nonprofit vendors and more than 1,000 participants, but Farris felt it could have been even bigger and better. She's hoping the first one in Fort Wayne will lead to an annual event that reaches out and encourages more people.

“I needed to raise this child in this world, so I really felt good about what I was doing as an individual, but I needed a way to think about how can I bring that to the community?” she says. “How can I encourage people to do more within an environment of sustainability and care about our world? It was really born out of pessimism, so I wanted this to be family-friendly and inclusive. I don't want someone to feel like they can't go to Eco Fest because they don't know a lot about sustainability and the environment. I want them all to feel like there is something here for them, something for them to learn.”

To receive approval, Farris presented a plan for approval to the Allen County Board of Health. Social distancing and the wearing of masks will be enforced. Though admission is free, attendance is limited to 250 people at a time. Vendors will be at least 6 feet apart with 12-foot-wide walkways between.

Vendors will be inside the pavilion while the workshops will take place under a tent on the lawn.

Stereotypes might suggest such an event would attract only younger participants, but Farris says that's not necessarily true.

“My parents are in their 70s and they remember growing up and going to the grocery store and everything was paper or glass,” she says. “Now you go and everything is plastic from the bags and wrappers to containers. I'm sure that a majority of people who are very passionate about the environment are younger, but if you are looking at older generations, people who are in their 60s and 70s, they grew up doing a lot of things that were sustainable and didn't even realize it, so having that come back around is kind of a full-circle moment. ... I don't think we have to work that hard to attract the older generations.”

For information about the event, including a list of vendors, go to

If you go

What: Eco Fest

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Headwaters Park West, 333 S. Clinton St.

Admission: Free

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